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  • Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

    Shaq Thompson (7) has progressed from all-around football talent at Grant High School to star linebacker at Washington.

  • Joe Davidson

Shaq Thompson showed football stardom at Grant, now at Washington

Published: Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 - 8:13 am

Sometimes you spot a player so gifted and effortless in his dominating display on a high school football field, and you just know.

It's a future NFL player running among teenagers.

That was Shaq Thompson. Like Tedy Bruschi of Roseville High School in 1991 and Lance Briggs of Elk Grove and Onterrio Smith of Grant in 1998, you could see stardom early in Thompson.

In 25 years at The Bee, I haven't seen a big back with such graceful, powerful and extra-gear strides as Thompson showed when he tore teams apart at Grant in 2010 and 2011.

On handoffs or on kickoff and punt returns, Thompson was a stunning athlete with an ultimate destination: Sunday paydays.

So where did Thompson initially play as a true freshman last season at Washington? The secondary – as the No. 1 safety recruit in the country. And what's he doing with the Huskies now? Playing linebacker.

At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Thompson closes in on ballcarriers with tailback speed and a defensive tackle's fury. Washington coaches have called him their most talented player, and NFL scouts are already paying attention.

Thompson had his best game for the Huskies last week with 13 tackles in a 31-13 victory over Arizona. And tonight he leads the No. 15 Huskies into The Farm against No. 5 Stanford, expecting a repeat of the upset Washington dropped on the Cardinal a year ago.

Thompson's big-play ability belies his otherwise humble, quiet nature. Thompson never bought into his own hype. At Grant, he was touched that fans flocked to him after games in Del Paso Heights to snap a picture, get an autograph and talk to him about hopes and dreams.

"I'm just being me," Thompson would explain.

And he's still the same Shaq.

"He's not a guy starving for attention," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said this week. "He's a very low-key guy. He was low-key in the recruiting process. He didn't need the press conference. That's just not his makeup.

"He's a great kid. He works extremely hard, not only on the football field but in the classroom and in the community. He's a really good teammate."

But Thompson isn't afraid of failure, either.

He gave baseball a try, after the Boston Red Sox selected him in the 18th round of the 2012 draft. In his brief stint in the Gulf Coast League, he went 0 for 39.

"It wasn't a good season for me," Thompson told reporters last week. "But it helped me realize that failure is an option in life. I had to learn to accept failure. Failure is not a bad thing."

In football, his future is bright, with what seems like sure stardom as an All-American candidate next season and perhaps later in the NFL. And he's still learning the game.

"Without a doubt, he's a completely different player this year as opposed to last year," Sarkisian said. "He's still got only a year under his belt at playing the position. That's not easy to do. He's just got such playmaking ability. He wants to be great."

Thompson said he's motivated to be great because he doesn't want to experience failure again.

"I just know that you have to fight for what you want," Thompson said. "Not everything is going to be given to you. Talent is not always going to be there. You have to work for it. Baseball, I let it go, but it's still in the back of my head. And the thing I'll never forget is the word 'failure.' It will always be with me."

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD, check out his PrepsPlus Insider every Monday at, and listen to his "Extra Point" every Wednesday on ESPN Radio 1320.

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